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December 21, 2012
I have been working through all of the hikes in the "Where Locals Hike in the Canadian Rockies: Kananaskis" trail guide and I should be done the book by end of summer 2013. The only one left that I'm equally excited and terrified to do is Northover Ridge. Debating the pros and cons of tackling it in one day. Planning to assault it in August of 2013.
I have a neck/shoulder injury that makes backpacking difficult. I can backpack, but even on level ground with only 35-40 lbs on my back, my neck/shoulder are screaming within a few kms. The idea of carrying that weight over a razor-sharp ridge worries me.
I have done long distance hikes, and have little trouble covering 30+ km in one day if I'm carrying minimal gear. I'd like to hear from people who have done this ridge in one day, and what their challenges were, how long it took them, whether they recommend it, etc.
I am a very experienced hiker and cover about 500 km in the four-month hiking season, but the biggest ridges I've done to date are moderate ones like Akamina, Lineham, Pocaterra, and Mist. Any cautions or words of wisdom would be appreciated!
December 8, 2008
Hi GG, The ridges you list are all very easy. Northover is much more serious. I would suggest that before tackling it you get some harder trips under your belt, ridges or easy ascents involving lots of scree and easy scrambling with some exposure.
My own view is that it seems a huge pity to condense 2 or 3 enjoyable days in the mountains into 1 day when you are not going to be able to stop and look at anything. What about carrying lightwight bivvy gear?
Anyone else with ideas?
My first reply disappeared into thin air!
I did this trip many, many years ago when I was much younger and fitter (1 Sep. 1984!).
We started from the Upper Lakes parking area, followed the trail around the south side of Upper K Lake, to Hidden Lake, then up the steep trail to Aster Lake. From there we hiked up through snow to the ridge, which we followed until dropping down to Three Isle Lake. Then it was a long, fast hike all the way back, down the headwall and around the north side of Upper K Lake and finally back to the car. We figured it was about 34 km and just less than 4,000 vertical feet. It took us 12 hours 40 minutes, and we started at 7 am.
You would need a nice sunny and long day to do this trip in one day. There are some tricky sections, such as the route up from Hidden Lake to Aster Lake, and along the ridge itself. We almost wandered out onto the glacier in a strange mist which appeared out of nowhere. We found a lost guy up there with a huge backpack who we added to our party. We had day packs plus some extras. The ridge has a knife edge section which might intimidate some people, especially if windy.
My diary reads: "Over 12 and a half hours of continuous walking, with only a few breaks...quite a marathon day!". I wouldn't go up there with a sore neck - it will get a good workout twisting around to let you admire the awesome scenery up there. Since my experience dates quite far back, there will be plenty of others who will give you better advice than me. But I did make it round the circuit , so it can be done!
December 8, 2008
See also the book Mountain Running in the Canadian Rockies by Bob Walker. On page 60 is a description of the traverse from the runner’s point of view. He gives a time of 7:15 for the distance as 36 km.
My hat goes off to Bob Parr who did the one day ascent of Northover Ridge in late August, 2012, along with his partner.
Hidden Lake was full. They were almost benighted coming back through the Hidden Lake section, but Bob managed to find the short cut trail in the dark.
I'll add one suggestion by Bob, which he has just again reminded of via email, and that is to consider going in via Aster Lake and continuing out via Three Isle. Two reasons. The first is that the braided streams at Aster Lake fill by the afternoon, thereby slowing you down. The second is that there is no bushwacking once you are at Three Isle, and this may be important if you are late.
The third reason I'll add is that if the water level in Hidden lake is high, you'll only have to do that section once.
April 15, 2010
I'm a fan of backpacking, and of taking one's time to see an area, but I think it can also be really neat to cover a lot of ground and see a ridiculous amount of scenery in a day trip. I can definitely see the logic given your issue with backpacks.
For this one, you need to be comfortable with both the distance and the terrain.
I'm not sure what else you've done, but easy-to-moderate scrambles including exposure would be a good idea. Lady Macdonald would be a good testpiece for the terrain.
For the distance, do the Iceline first as a testpiece.
Northover Ridge on the WLH book is stated as 33.7km, 1180m gain.
The Iceline Loop (full loop, not dayhike trail) is 30km, 1100m gain.
The Iceline also has good trails the entire distance, compared to the mix on Northover.
If you have any trouble with the Iceline, do a few more trips before Northover. If you can do the Iceline with plenty of time to spare, Northover seems like a comfortable next step, assuming you have experience on comparable terrain (routefinding, exposure).
Watch the conditions too, as you have to balance the early season long light with the late season easier route around Hidden Lake. If you do go, definitely start on the Aster side and get the challenging part over with. On the Three Isle side, once you make it down the headwall, the last 8km are easy, and the last 6km or so are big wide open easy trail. That's nice to have waiting at the end.
Given the need to start early and possibly end late (thus moving around twilight), it would be good to plan around the avoidance of heavy berry season as well.
Are u sure iceline loop is 30 km? I did a hike/jog on that trail in 5 hours, the full loop....is northover ridge really comparable to the iceline? I really want to do this hike but like most worrie about time. In the pics it almost looks llike a 30 km hike with a constant incline.
Any help on this would be great. I am in good shape and do tend to do some jogging on trails.
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